KIERAN CROWLEY has emerged as a potential leading candidate to take on the vacant head coach role at Edinburgh after it was announced earlier today that he will part company with the Italy national team after this Autumn’s World Cup.
Whether the 61-year-old has the appetite for the Edinburgh job remains to be seen, but the opportunity to revolutionise the fortunes of a talented but under-performing squad, working with a decent and fairly safe playing budget, in one of the northern hemisphere’s big three leagues, is bound to have a certain pull.
The timing of this announcement also means that there is not going to be an awful lot of other coaching opportunities available for Crowley to walk straight into, with most positions in both Europe and back in his native New Zealand already filled ahead of the start of next season.
Edinburgh – who have been in the market for a new head coach since Mike Blair announced that he was stepping down from the role back in February – had no comment to make on the matter this afternoon.
Former Sale Sharks and Worcester Warriors director of rugby Steve Diamond was brought in as the club’s ‘lead rugby consultant’ on an interim basis in early March and is currently overseeing pre-season training.
The capital club had hoped to have a new boss in place by the start of the 2022-23 campaign, but Scottish Rugby Chief Executive Mark Dodson has stated that he is prepared to wait until after the World Cup if that is what it takes to get the right person for the job.
Crowley – who has previously had coaching spells with Taranaki, New Zealand Under-19s, Canada and Benetton – took on the Italy role in September 2021, replacing Franco Smith (who had been appointed Head of High Performance by the Italian Rugby Federation before taking the Glasgow Warriors head coach job last summer).
His strike rate with the Azzurri was six wins from 19 matches, which is pretty impressive by the historical standards of a Cinderella team of tier one rugby, especially as he guided Italy to two of its most famous rugby victories. He was at the helm when they dramatically defeated Wales in Cardiff in the final round of the 2021 Six Nations to break a 36-match and seven-year championship losing streak, and also oversaw a first ever win over Australia in Florence during the Autumn of 2022.
These successes were achieved whilst Crowley boldly remodelled the Azzurri with an injection of youth and attacking flair. The former All Blacks full-back handed 22 players their debuts, including Ange Capuozzo, who was World Rugby’s 2022 breakthrough player of the year.
It is clear that Crowley’s departure from the Italy job was not by mutual consent.
“I would have liked to be involved with the Italian national team also for the next Rugby World Cup cycle and I am sorry for the FIR’s choice not to extend my contract,” he said.
“We have a young team, which has gained good experience over the last year, with performances showing improvements in many areas. We have changed the way we train in the gym and on the pitch and in the way we approach and play matches. We have changed the mentality, instilling courage and self-confidence, without constraints.
“With a World Cup and another four years of international matches, we will have a group averaging 50-60 caps, an exciting prospect. Unfortunately, I will not be part of this journey and now I have to think about what awaits us immediately, namely the Rugby World Cup in France before my departure. I will be 100 percent committed together with our staff to prepare this group of players in the best possible way.
“My wife Sue and I will always remember the wonderful people we met and the moments spent with them, the teams I trained, the colleagues I worked with, the Italian culture and of course the food and wine. We will miss all of this, but Italy will always have a special place in our hearts.
Italian Rugby Federation President Marzio Innocenti said: “Now that we have decided to end the relationship with Crowley after the next World Cup, it is time to take stock. And Kieran’s time with Italian rugby is very positive. He raised a group of boys, making them men and players of high international level, and for this we will be eternally grateful.
“But our work together is not finished yet, we have one exciting adventure left to live in France next September and I am sure that Kieran and his team will leave their indelible mark on the history of Italian rugby.”
Crowley’s successor has not yet been named by the Italian Rugby Federation.
- Meanwhile, former Scotland Under-20s flanker Teddy Leatherbarrow has joined Scarlets. The 23-year-old, whose younger brother Ollie was a stand-out for the national age-grade side in 2022, came through the Sale Sharks Academy, playing for the club in the Premiership Cup. He represented England at under-18s level and played for Scotland during the 2019 U20s Six Nations and Junior World Championships. After an outstanding campaign for Loughborough University last term he was named in the BUCS team of the season.
- Harlequins have signed the former Scotland Under-20 international Cameron Anderson from London Scottish. The two clubs have a partnership agreement. The back-three player, who began his senior career with Wasps, also played for Scotland U20 in 2019. He joined London Scottish in 2022.
- Finally, former Glasgow Warriors head coach Danny Wilson has been appointed coaching co-ordinator at Harlequins.